4 minutes estimated reading time
My story with the Casio DW-100 began in the school canteen. One of the people that I used to hang with as I ate my packed lunch was a guy called Neil. Neil was one of the better off people in my school, he had a maths tutor. His Mum ran a green grocers and we occasionally heard about giant spiders turning up in boxes of bananas that had been picked up from the wholesale market.
The Chiba connection
Neil’s Dad was a ships carpenter by trade who ended up working for Shell. He was assigned to different places and inspected tankers that were under construction or being repaired. Because of this, he worked away for most of the year. During the summer or Christmas Neil would get to visit his job in places like Nigeria, Singapore or Japan. He spent a good deal of time in Chiba, Japan as his Dad was inspecting ships being built at Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding.
When you have a well paid parent who doesn’t see you very often and access to the latest greatest products, you end up the most well heeled kid on the block. At the time, a lot of the best Japanese products didn’t get as far as the UK. Neil had a better Walkman than anyone else and he had the Casio DW-100.
After coming back from visiting the Far East Neil came a new Casio DW-1000.
Casio watches had a battery that would usually last a couple of years, which was why they were holding their own against competitors like Commodore or Sekonda. Before the lithium ‘coat button’ batteries, watches had smaller ‘shirt button’ sized batteries that lasted 12 months if you were lucky. The smaller buttons also seemed to leak ruining the watch beyond repair.
Back then our equivalent of Hodinkee magazine was the Argos catalogue. My local Rolex authorised dealer seemed like it was a space ship from another world. My Dad’s 1960s vintage Omega felt like adult unobtainium. Seiko and Citizen watches were things I aspired to have when got to hold down a job in the adult world of work that felt so far off at the time. It was the 1980s so even being able to work felt more hopeful than reality.
They were also cheaper than the likes of Seiko or Citizen digital watches. It was fortunate to have a Casio Marlin W750; which was a step above most digital watches at the time with water resistance of 50 meters. This was the best Casio digital watch that was available at the time in Argos catalogue. This 50M water resistance capability was shown with a marlin fish on the front of it. Otherwise it looked like every other Casio watch. What that meant that it was able to survive getting washed or having a shower. This was important as my school was full of light-fingered pupils.
The G-Shock before the G-Shock
Neil’s Casio DW-100 caught the eye for a number of reasons:
- It was an unusual combination of resin strap and metal case
- The strap was beefier
- The case was predominantly brushed finish rather than shiny and discernibly larger
- It had a plastic bumper on the front to protect the easily scratched plastic glass
- “Water Resist 200M” embossed on plastic bumper. Dive watch level water resistance seemed like an ability to blast off into space.
- Staring at the grey glass a bit harder and you would see a stylised scuba diver where my own watch featured a marlin.
Function-wise it was very similar to my own watch. The screen had the exact same three segments on the screen. There would be a half hour chime function, which was the soundtrack of my classroom in the same way that iPhone alerts are the soundtrack of the office today.
While these watches were robust, they would soon resemble a hard-working Land Rover. The front bumper scarred and chewed up as if it was mauled by a lion. Many of them were probably prefectly useable up to the day that they were thrown away or put in a drawer. One of them featured in an advertising campaign that Casio ran in the US in 2019.
The development of the G-Shock also implies that many of the drops that the DW-100 damaged it in a similar way to cheaper watches. The LCD screen would break and there wasn’t the kind of replacement services that we know have for broken smartphone screens.
While the Casio DW-100 was not well known in the UK, they were sold in the US as well as Japan. in 1986, they were a key item in an episode of the TV show MacGyver. And have now been coveted by watch collectors and adult fans of the show.
I haven’t spoken to Neil in decades, we fell out of touch. He got sponsored for his first degree; did a doctorate after leaving the sponsor and has spent the rest of his career in the oil industry. The last I heard of him he was involved in oilfield maintenance and engineering in the Middle East.
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